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Here’s how to (automatically) monitor your competitors’ content strategy

Monitoring the content your competitors publish will help you build a content strategy that more effectively engages your target audiences.

Your law firm, like all businesses, needs to be monitoring what its competitors are doing. It almost goes without saying that a fundamental part of running a business—and growing that business—is keeping an eye on your competitors.

For some lawyers and law firms, their competitors might be across the street or across town. Other times, they might be across the state or the country.

Wherever a law firm’s competitors are located, they need to be monitored. Obviously, lawyers are unlikely to ever get a behind-the-curtain view of their competitors’ marketing and business development strategies and plans that would allow them to determine how their own firms measure up.

But there is a proxy for such a view: the content a law firm’s competitors publish.

That’s why signing up for your competitors’ email newsletters is one of the most simple yet most effective ways for you to gain competitive intelligence on your competition. Through these (free) subscriptions, you and your colleagues will be able to see—automatically—the content your competitors are publishing, and through it, the marketing and business development strategies (if any) those competitors are attempting to execute on.

Law firm competitive intelligence via email

There is so much information that can be gleaned from seemingly mundane email newsletters from competing law firms.

For example, how frequently are your competing law firms publishing their newsletters? If you receive one email newsletter each quarter from a competitor, you can deduce that the competitor is probably not marketing to their clients and referral sources via email often.

If, on the other hand, competitors are emailing weekly, they’re likely executing on a strategy of frequent touches with current and prospective clients and referral sources.

Based on this information, you and your law firm can settle on a frequency of communication with your own current and prospective clients and referral sources that better engages them than the frequency employed by your competitors.

In addition to frequency, there’s substance.

What kinds of content are your competitors publishing? What are they writing about?

Are they writing about developments in the law as they relate to their various practices? If so, that can be a clue as to whether they are expanding their practices to focus on new areas or niches.

Are they writing about developments in their own cases? That can tell you the kinds of clients and cases they’re pursuing, though this information will be on a time delay as it may take months or years after a law firm decides to take on new kinds of cases before the firm actually starts bringing them in and working on them.

If your competitors are just publishing content about their speaking engagements and their volunteer efforts with charitable organizations, or otherwise not publishing content that demonstrates their knowledge and wisdom regarding the areas of law they practice, that’s a sign.

It’s a sign your competitors are either not creating that content or they aren’t smart enough to distribute it via email.

Knowing this information gives you an opportunity to create more content for the audiences you and your competitors are both targeting, or to begin crafting content regarding an area of the law that you and your competitors both advise clients about, but that your competitors haven’t written about for some time.

In addition to frequency and substance, there’s design and typography.

How are the layouts of your competitors’ communications? Are they clean? Do they hurt your eyes? Does they look nice on both your large desktop monitor and your cell phone? On just one? On neither?

Putting the competitive intelligence you’ve learned to good use

By looking at the frequency, substance, and design of your competitors’ email newsletters, you gain competitive intelligence about the “when” and “how” of their outreach to clients and referral sources—and you might even be able to deduce the “why” if it appears your competitors are targeting new practice areas or niches.

(We’ve previously covered how law firms can use content to call their shot like Babe Ruth and tell the world they’re moving into a new practice area or niche.)

And now comes the hard part: what to do with that competitive intelligence?

My suggestion is look for opportunities to pounce on your competitors’ weaknesses. 

Do they not publish frequently? You and your firm should publish more frequently than them.

Are they not covering relevant court decisions, legislative developments, and administrative agency actions? You and your firm should.

Is the design of their email blasts terrible? Make yours eye-catching and appealing.

Obviously, what you do with this competitive intelligence will largely depend on your firm, its practices, and your competitors and their practices. But just the fact that you now have competitive intelligence to work with puts you in a better position than before to compete with other law firms.

Today, competitive intelligence via email newsletters. Tomorrow, competitive intelligence via [insert method here]?

I’m not suggesting that you and your colleagues receiving email newsletters from your competitors is going to be the end-all, be-all way for you to acquire competitive intelligence about those competitors.

But what I am suggesting is that it is a stupid easy way for you to at least start that competitive intelligence process, and more importantly, help you understand where you should be going with your and your law firm’s content strategy by looking at where your competitors aren’t going with theirs.

Thinking about bringing on an outside writer or content strategist to help you build and execute on a content strategy that takes advantage of the weaknesses in your competitors’ content strategies? Click here to schedule a 30-minute Content Strategy Audit to learn if collaborating with an outside writer is the right move for you and your firm.

Wayne Pollock, a former Am Law 50 senior litigation associate, is the founder of Copo Strategies, a legal services and communications firm, and the Law Firm Editorial Service, a content strategy and ghostwriting service for lawyers and their law firms. The Law Firm Editorial Service helps Big Law and boutique law firm partners, and their firms, grow their practices and prominence by collaborating with them to strategize and ethically ghostwrite book-of-business-building marketing and business development content.

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